Located in Shell Rock, a community of about 1300 as of the last reported census, past satisfied patrons of the Riverview Café have described it as "small town friendly" and "an oasis in the middle of nowhere". (Personally, I wouldn't call Shell Rock "the middle of nowhere", but that's beside the point.) Perhaps most dramatically, another diner endorsed Riverview as where she'd go if things in the world really got ugly. "In a post-apocalyptic world, this is where I plan to go when I'm hungry," she wrote. Now, those are just a sample of the reviews you can read on the Trip Advisor website, but they tend to trend pretty favorably.
But how do they sell themselves? It's pretty straight-forward: "Traditional, American small-town restaurant and pub, family friendly. Burgers, Pizza, chicken, wraps. Known for our Friday Fish Fry!"
With a good reputation built for it, Iowa Adventurer decided to check it out for himself. After a long day on the road in late October (Halloween Saturday), which also included stops in Cresco, Volney, Strawberry Point, Oran, Independence, Waverly, and more, I definitely wanted to end my day with a good meal.
Fortunately for me, the reality matched the hype.
I had asked the server working that evening what she recommended. She said, wisely, that everything on the menu was good but noted that their burgers and pizza were quite popular. While I was not in the mood for pizza, I did decide to try their #10 cowboy burger, which included the burger, bbq sauce, pepper jack cheese, and an onion ring. I made it a basket with the always delicious crispy crinkle cut fries. There is no "after picture" to post but let's just say that the paper boat was an easy clean-up.
However, as you can see from the menu, there are lots of different menu options that range from burgers, sandwiches, and salads to pizza, broasted chicken, and other dinners. A quick run through their Facebook page will show that they are always mixing things up with new and regularly rotated lunch and dinner specials. A friend of mine from the area noted that he's enjoyed a lot of good breakfasts at Riverview over the years.
The restaurant itself is in the downtown portion of the community. It's about a block from the Shell Rock River. I'll need to come back to do some more exploring of the other businesses and amenities in town sometime.
The Riverview occupies a neat old building that has some great murals painted on the sides of it.
Inside, you find that there is a larger dining area with varying sizes of tables for use.
There's a "pub" sign that directs you down a small hallway to where the bar is located.
There's a large bulletin board in the hall way that is full of business cards, job postings, event notices, and more. I always say that if you find something like that in rural Iowa, there's a very good chance it's a good place to eat...because that's where the locals gather.
The pub was pretty lively. I didn't linger long but wanted to check it out to get the full experience of the place.
The pub seemed to have a lot of old pictures or memorabilia on the walls. There were also some stuffed animals, too. The week before I had eaten in Morrison at The Morris Inn and the animals on their walls there needed to wear masks, too. Not the case, here.
The café part of the building had some art work on the walls as done by a local craftsman. It's possible those are sold by now, but if not, they should be. Those are beautifully done.
There's also some other patriotic and military insignia on the walls as well.
There are a lot of great small town restaurants and watering holes like Riverview which truly serve as the pulse of their communities. It's where retirees gather for coffee to share the latest, where workers and farmers pop in for quick bite, and where families gather to enjoy a pizza, burgers, or maybe the weekly special. If I were writing my own online review, I'd certainly have no complaints at all about my visit to Riverview. The food was good, it was out to me promptly, and the service was excellent.
Riverview is definitely worth the drive if you are looking for somewhere new to dine but its certainly a obvious stop if you are in the area and needing a good wholesome experience.
These kinds of places are important to rural Iowa and Shell Rock is fortunate to have Riverview.
As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile whether in Butler County or any of the other 98 counties in Iowa. If you have a good idea or would like to host the Iowa Adventurer, please drop me a note through this site.